tv Book Discussion on The Lynching CSPAN July 17, 2016 1:30pm-2:16pm EDT
contention upon ensuring we had access to foreign oil. what i argue in the book is it began as oil, quickly morphed into some thing else. the middle east in some sense, very important senses became a war to demonstrate that the limits that apply to other countries need not apply to less, to demonstrate that when the united states senate mind to doing something that we can do it and can use the term that they like in washington and in the same sense we are able to shape a large part of the world, the assumption among policy makers being that the use of american military power gives us the instrument to accomplish this shaky.
go tram imac tran -- [inaudible conversations] >> hello, everyone. welcome to politics & prose. thank you for coming. i am lily and before introducer author, i went to give a few quick reminders. the first is to turn off your cell phone. as i get it as you probably know we record our event in tonight we are filming. we have c-span here. when it comes time for q&a, there is a microphone set up right there by the pillar. please line up at the microphone when we are done, placed accurate shares against any
bookshelves and i will make our lives much easier. thank you. now, more like, someone is the author of 12 "new york times" best-selling books that range in subject matter from kennedy to johnnie carson to trafficking in peru. he was a magazine writer for many years and has one ploy by rose kennedy which is going up in chicago this era are having an off broadway last year. we are here to talk about his most recent work, "the lynching: the epic courtroom battle that brought down the klan", in which he investigates the lives of three southern men, alabama governor george wallace, you can do if you want, kk later robert shelton and the cofounder of the law poverty center. the lynching starts at the 1981 trial that sparked a hate crime in mobile alabama and one of the most important big areas against the plan. it's a gripping book and it's an important one.
bryan stevenson, author of chest mercy and founder of equal justice initiative has had we ignore the detailed account at our peril. we will not ignore it. please join me to welcome someone. [applause] >> thank you very much. slavery is america's original sin. it is a pity it took so long for a president to say that it was her first african-american president to did so but did not make it less true. as i've investigated this book about managing in alabama, i've gone back to the early history of slavery and followed it. one thing i find important or crucial to it is the sexuality in slavery. the years of slavery, the slave masters with calm down essentially have their way with
the women in the slave quarters. at a time of the civil war, there was a large mixed population in the south. millions and millions of people of mixed blood. do this in my camry in alabama and that this black with white eyes. -- white wife. he had a plantation. i thought it would go out to the plantation. we go to the living room and there is this a portrait. the two families, a black family and my family. who are the ways? or the white folks? they are family, part of my family that my great-grandmother was by the slave master and my families have passed as white and some have lived as black. so that was the southern reality. after the civil war, the clan
began and the clan started lynching and the whole idea what this year at the blackmail. in probably the most socially american, socially important american film was going now to protect white womanhood. in the early part, ida wells was a young journalist wasn't meant as, tennessee. there have been six lynchings in the last two of black men who were lynched for supposedly trained to white women. she wrote a piece for the memphis paper saying we all know that is not true. we know that is not what happened. if we told the truth about what they were doing, it would not be good for the reputation of white women. the white establishment was so upset that they had an article saying that the person who wrote that should be. when they discovered it was a
woman, they burned down the newspaper. the chain went on for 70 years. then chain an average of once a week of racial lynching in the south from 1955. psychologically the earlier device all black people down. imagine if you're a black mother, how do you raise your kids? do you raise them to get off and dr. pat and lawrence had. if you wanted to live, you probably did the later. the last one was in 1955 and then in march 1981 in mobile, alabama, people woke up that morning and there was a body of a black man hanging from a tree. i've got to see how this is going to work.
this is the body that was hanging around the tree. the black people came in to the neighborhood and they saw this and i started crying and got down on their hands and knees. they knew what had happened. they knew it had been a racial lynching. michael figures a state senator showed up. he took pictures of three men standing. in the southern state. his son, henry hayes and 17-year-old tiger knows. three clansmen and the cranston lived across the street. that is where you go to look for these killers. the mobile establishment did not want a lynching tape taking place in their pristine city. so we don't white man were
accused and arrested for this murder. they were totally innocent. the city of mobile was willing to convict these three mencometh a man to life in prison, possibly execute them for a crime they did not commit. a couple later, grand juries do whatever the prosecutor wants them to do. they said no we can't do this. a lot of people talk about states rights. the justice department and the civil rights division of the justice department came down in the presence of barry kowalski, young lawyer in an fbi agent there and they worked this case and they got tiger dolls, the 17-year-old to admit he had done this. to admit there have been a lack of proper in birmingham,
alabama, when he robbed a bank shot and killed a white police officer. to give them a fair trial and not the clan meeting a few days before the lynching, they said it was a largely black jury, that if he is found innocent or there is a hung jury, they will find a black man to kill him. this friday evening the two young clan men went out and michael donnelly was a 19-year-old kid. a good young man coming youngest of seven children and his aunt wanted to go get a pack of cigarettes. they came up to them in a car, pointed a pistol at him, took him in the woods, got them out and he knew as a black man what was going to happen. he fought back with the mets curse cometh out of three times about that. they took the hanging rope out of the car, put the boot on his head and pulled the rope tight again and strangled him.
they slit his throat. they could have left them in the forest. that wasn't good enough. it was a symbol that the claim was still alive and strong. write him back to mobile and hung the body in that tree. and so, they applied guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. he's been on trial for his life in mobile. the young man came down for that trial him as he sat there, he thought these two men had done that, but they are just these young people. but they were told by the leadership of the clan is the leadership responsible is ultimately and i've got to find a way to sue them and to bring down the clan. that was his idea. the middle part of my book is a story of the three crucial men. george wallace, four-time governor of alabama, robert
shelton, to assert a of america and morris dees. more screw up the son of a farmer, grippy segregationists just the way everybody was a segregationist. went to the university of alabama as a law student. 1958 he took off a semester and was george wallace student can a manager. he took on the case at the clansmen who bludgeoned pete told during the freedom ride in montgomery. a freedom rider came up and said what are you doing? this is so wrong. he realized it was wrong. two years later at the time of the bombing, the birmingham hamas were done by members of the night is clans of america, morris was a baptist folk ministry. when up to his church that morning and said folks,
something that has been done. they said tallis, brother. he said yes, these black girls in birmingham were killed in a bombing. everybody in the church, leave us alone. don't talk about this. he wanted to help in some way. in way. in the end he said let us pray that we can do some thing about this. he bowed his head and shut his eyes. when he looked up, there is not a single person left in this church. not a single white person in that church was going to help these black children. that was the reality of the south end of alabama. maurice beas had made a great deal of money in the book publishing. in 1970 when he started the southern poverty center with the idea of using the law to bring
racial justice and social justice in alabama throughout the south. he brought five young lawyers to work with him. they did all kinds of great cases. in selma, the black part of town , so he had a lawsuit. there had to be -- he emigrated the state police and all these things and he took on the clan. the southern law center was fire bombed. with the premise came out the premise came out one evening at his house around christmas time. they were going to kill them. this is a struggle. they felt that this was just too much. they didn't come down to having an armed camp. so they outlast.
it's a very difficult idea, never been done before, to find the head of the organization responsible for what the individual member state. he came in 1997 in montgomery. he was seeking a $10 million judgment against the united clans of america, the biggest clan in america. he had to prove that there is a pattern of violence and he did that. robert shelton had said aides to push people to do violent acts. he didn't say explicitly. you just take allotted to it has to be done. that's what he did in 1965 when a bunch of clansmen went out and shining killed as she drove with the young black men. so when that court room got testified. he testified originally and he
was kind of bloodless way he taught about it. no emotion. at the end of the trial, when morris paid his final comment, i want to speak again and a lot of lawyers would say we can't do this. were not always going to say helped us. maurice had a good instinct about this and he let them get up. tiger said we are responsible. we did this terrible name. i'm so sorry we did this. it is an evil thing and we deserve to be punished and punished for this. i'm so sorry. you look down and michael donald's mother sitting there and said i am so sorry. he said i forgive you. i forgive you for this. there is not a dry eye in that court room, could name the judge. the four hours of the verdict,
four hours after the verdict, the jury came down and had a $7 million during his united clans of america. the clan didn't have any money, but they had a $50,000 building. it took over the building and the money was given to mrs. donald who bought a house which lived in the projects until then. it destroyed the clan. the clan leader retired. that was the end. from then on, the southern law center argues that legal eerie again and again against any number of these race of race as an old today they are known and don't exist. they reach a certain point. other organizations are going after them and destroyed them. that is one of the most positive things they have done.
as for george wallace, a man in 67 as a graduate i spent four or five days on his plane in california. george wallace called one of his aides in the governor's mansion last year's governor and he was in a very sad mood. he was in his wheelchair smoking a cigar. he said i am so is ari. i'm afraid i'm going to. they said you are not here by which even say that? you are a born-again christian. you are going to heaven, governor. you know not to worry about this. george governor wallace said, you know, i flew those planes over japan, tokyo in world war ii. i said those firebombs, most people, but i don't fear for that. i fear i am going because i said things to kill people. and so we did.
in his words, people like robert shelton's set off the clan and george wallace worked at tivoli with the clan during his entire political career. the clan was important throughout the south. he did the dirty work for the white establishment. that must never be forgotten. at the beginning of the 20th century, there were 180 black people who could vote in alabama. the way political and economic establishment couldn't stand out. a new constitution was put through, saying you have to have $300 or 40 acres of land where you couldn't vote. the next year there were only 5000 african-americans left on the ballot in alabama. after world war ii, blacks who had fought in the war were worked in more industries had
the money and then they could vote and they put their new bill and said if you wanted to register to vote, you had to pass this test on the constitution. in some of these counties, you could be a black harvard phd in constitutional law and you wouldn't be out of pass that. but the struggle went on. the struggle for civil rights is a struggle for people marching all throughout this country, but it also was a legal struggle and that is what the book is about. it's about large that the federal government and the enormous role it has patented the emptiness. without the federal government, we would not have a successful civil rights movement we have in the freedoms we have. now i know there are a her her -- and a number of young black intellectuals these days, who say that things have not gotten better, that we are back where we always were. i say they are wrong.
i mean, at the end of my book, there is a museum across civil rights museum across the street from the law center. i was there with a group of black family reunion, which is the worst place almost to the north and never moving back and as i stood with them, we saw there was a new world and they were part of a new world. we must remember how far we have come back day, talk to these people and said, you know, in that museum, michael donald's picture was there. there is his mother. there is the clans going to give moore's views. there is robert shelton, head of the ku klux klan can united clans of america. he was moore's views in more
recent years. here is a cartoon in the fire he caught for the clan newspaper. you mrs. donnell after the successful verdict. and here is michael donald's picture the civil rights museum were back today morris told these people that these people, like michael donnell, and that still is how many others will not be forgotten. they will be remembered forever. we must remember this. we must remember the struggle. it's been a long road, but we are a good long ways off that road. we are up that road because of any number of people. we are at that road because in
1983, when for the first time the transit system in mobile, alabama, with aggregated for a year, the black people of mobile boycott at that. i'm not talking 1954, 55, 56. i'm talking 1903. nobody remembers that that they are not part of our knowledge history. they were there they took us up the road. martin is the king took a step that road. malcolm x took us up to road. mohamed ali took us up that road. we've still got a long ways to go. it is a black struggle, but it's not only a black struggle. it is my struggle and it is your struggle, too. why is that our struggle? it is our struggle because you and i cannot be free. view and i cannot be free until
everyone is free. thank you. [applause] >> any questions? >> hi, larry. that was a great presentation. as a southerner and onetime reporter in the south, that it is a great contribution to the historiography of that. and even though all this was written about many times before about what i read of your book was just fantastic and a great contribution to the history writing. i'd like to bring in an to the present for a little bit if you don't mind. you wrote this the other day and fact about the connection of possible parallels between george d. wallace and mr. trump, the republican candidate. i am wondering, there has been a lot of a lot of talk at length about the parallels between hitler and trout. what about the parallels --
>> there are a lot of parallels. george wallace was a very smart man and he understood the white southern mentality, the poor white southern mentality better than anyone of his generation, probably a good job. he did it and he knew as a young man that segregation was going to end. he knew absolutely it was going to end. but he knew if he became an avid supporter, the most militant support of segregation in the south, he could advance way, who knows what he could do. he cynically did this. he could have become the clerk with nelson and della to ending apartheid in south africa. he might have done that. he had the ability. but he chose a different route cynically because it was a way to advance.
i believe that when donald trump talks about seven and 11 million undocumented workers out of his country when he is a lot to president, i think he knows it's not going to happen. he was looking with no background as political candidate in using the media to advance himself. he needed these issues that were so enormous, so radical that they would get attention. his understanding of the way -- the white working class and lower middle class. george wallace was understanding the white working class in the south. so i think he cynically took this issue. the same thing is true with muslims. not a lot of muslims in this country. maybe a little bit more of a possibility. there is that parallel.
george wallace needed violent or the potential violence at his rallies. he wanted to have protesters there. he didn't want to break out, but he wanted to come close. trump did that. trump has backed off from that. the third part of it is both george wallace and donald trump is not just about races. george wallace when i spent that week in 67, the newspapers in the north were talking about him just as a racist. the first piece i wrote saying more than that. these white working class people are showing up to these rallies are afraid they are being left by. why is donald trump so popular question or because the kind of white folks, not just white folks, but we don't even like to use the word working class, that
the inequality. they were a democrat overwhelmingly. they felt betrayed. many of them moved through the republican party and republican party betrayed them, too and moved on to donald trump. i'll tell you what, donald trump would probably betray him, too. >> first, i would like to complain. your book may make it up at 5:00 this morning to keep reading. i'm tired. secondly, any emotional response to the research. did anything surprise you? >> i confess, i am an aging northern lip roll. we have this idea that the south was bad, but we were pretty bad up here, too. in new york after a black person you couldn't get a room -- a
hotel room until the sixth these. in new york, if you are black in the 19th century, you couldn't get a job as a skilled laborer. he had to take the lowest of the jobs. we know how bad racism was in america. i've got to tell you, it was worse down there. it was worse than the evil out of it. it doesn't affect just the blacks. it destroys the way. we destroyed that society. they can romanticize that all they want. it is strange that the two most socially important films in our history, note that these presentations of the south ,-com,-com ma one of birth of a nation, which is a film of the clan. they are going to show that film to you. the other is gone with the wind. another equally from the size
.. , first of all, many people think he's jewish. and i have many friends who give money who think he's jewish. he's to not jewish, he's baptist. no, the he's jewish, he's jewish. you don't know what you're talking about. no, he's not jewish. his grandfather had, there's this jewish businessman in montgomery that he admired, okay? and he named his three sons after this jewish businessman. he grew up, his father was a tenant farmer. he grew up with black friends. and i met several of them. still after all this time, he still has these guys as his friends. you know, they were his friends. they didn't come in and eat at the table in his house, that's for sure. but they were black, they were
his friends, and they're still his friends. so he had an understanding and a feeling, and his father had a little cotton gin. and, you know, it was a place where if you're a black farmer and you brought your cotton in there, you'd get the same price a white farmer did. that wouldn't happen, if you're a black man and you come in there, you're going to play the black man's prize. so they treated black people well in the context of those times, although they were segregationists. you know, it took him a time to come to terms with this, okay? and he, you know, it was a struggle for him. and some people don't like to hear of this. they want to kind of idealize him. and, you know, everybody wants to be atticus finch. he's not atticus finch. he's more like oscar schindler.
you know, atticus finch was a fictional character, and he's probably destroyed more lawyers than anybody because they think it's what they can be and do, and they can't. but oscar schindler, as complicated and contradictory as he was, he was a real person, and he saved thousands of jews. and morris is a complicated who struggled to change over years, a guy that's married five times, a guy that went, on the very day in this law case in 1987 he's sitting there, sitting waiting for the verdict to come down, everybody else is, you know, nervously figuring out what to do, he's making a pass at a young reporter. that's morris. [laughter] but he's done great things. and he continues to do great things. and he deserves every award this nation can give, as far as i'm concerned.
>> hi. i just happened into this session. i'm just thrilled to have been here. thank you. what, is there a radical with a little r approach to dealing with today's big issues that would be equivalent to what morris dees did in his legal approach to taking down the structure? >> well, the problem today is you don't have these big groups that you can -- you have these individuals. you saw what happened in charleston last year. a young man who just picks up this stuff on the internet, you know? and that's, and as people are growing more and more aware that they're being watched by the fbi and homeland security, they're going to be more if more cautious -- more and more cautious the way they do things. it's going to be extremely hard to deal with this. we've got to end -- one thing that's come out of trump's campaign is a resurgence of racism. now, he's not -- i don't say
he's a -- he's not a racist. he's not a racist. i know the man. i know him, okay? i've had dinner with him at easter sunday, as a matter of fact, at his golf course. and he's not a racist. but he has brought this racist stuff forth. and it is scary. it is still in the american soul. and let me tell you one other thing about racism, is that racism always resides with anti-semitism. and you've seen my book, if you read my book, robert shelton, the klan leader, as he grows older, he becomes more and more anti-semitic and spends less time worrying about blacks. blacks are too stupid to rise on their own. that's his idea. you see that robert shelton was going to work with, was going to start a terrorist cap for middle east terrorists in alabama. he was in dealings with these
people, okay? so this stuff is still there. and we have to continually watch it. and that's what the southern poverty law center does, that's -- we've all got to do it, that's just the way it is. it's in our, it's in our souls. it's in the american soul, unfortunately. and it must be driven back down where it belongs. >>, yeah, this mac odell. i just have a couple of comments, not questions. first, when i was growing up, my folks would write checks out to this funny outfit, southern poverty what's -- southern something, i didn't know what it was. but i asked them about it. this was years ago. and they, you know, they told me what these folks were doing like you've just been through. and it was an eye-opener for me. now, my folks grew up as
republicans, but when they got into their 80s, my dad was subscribing to mother jones. [laughter] and, you know, you say that times have changed, and they have changed a huge amount for people like that. some people saw it, some people didn't. we experienced it as a little kid right here in virginia, in arlington. i won't go into that. but what was interesting to me when i heard about your book, i began telling all my friends. and i would urge people to look at this book, come to this event. and i would ask them always when do you think the last lynching actually occurred in america? and i have yet to find anybody that places it more recently than the '60s. and you owned people's eyes to that this is still going on, you know, even though people were working on it decades ago. it's still here. it's buried here. it's in the tea party. it's in the right wing. it's in donald trump, and it's
still embedded in this society, and we've got a lot of homework to do. >> in 1965 i was a peace corps volunteer in nepal. i was taking a trek, a 500-mile trek up to everest base camp, and i got sick. i was walking toward kathmandu, and i arrived, and i stopped in this beautiful house there. and there was mac odell. and mac odell gave me the medicine that possibly be saved my life. so thank you for coming here, mac. [laughter] [applause] >> some of us at that time in the '60s, i came out when kennedy formed the peace corps, and i thought the job was in the third world, that we had a duty to go out and work in the third world to try and make the world a better place. and my friends told me, no, the work is really back here at home. i didn't believe them until i got back from nepal in the '70s. i looked around, and i said, yeah, the work is right here.
[applause] [inaudible conversations] >> thank you so much for writing this. i admired the southern poverty law center for years. one aspect that has been on my mind is that it, for some people it's useful for working class white americans to, it's useful to play into this because then they can get them to vote for, like, the southern strategy -- >> right. >> -- for economic policies that don't serve their interests. so i was wondering if perhaps it is necessary to appeal to the,
to the real interests of these working class. i mean, if you don't do something for their own problems and make them vulnerable, something to help them have more security, housing, jobs, etc., they're always going to be vulnerable. >> well, but american politics is cyclical, and sooner or later a true populist politician is going to rise who's going to speak to these issues. it's sitting there waiting. it should have happened now. there should be a candidate out there now that speaks to that. unfortunately, this year there is not. >> [inaudible] >> right. >> thank you for doing all this research and writing this book. it's wonderful. wonder if you could help us understand using your insights how non-racist trump is such a
catalyst for so much bigotry of so many people. >> well, i don't think trump understands on one level what he's doing. i think he has no clear ideology. his ideology is to get attention, okay? and he, but he just has such brilliant instincts of the media. that's what it's about. he's transformed american politics, he's transformed the media, he's transformed the way that television covers things. i mean, he is a pure genius. we'll be studying his campaign forever, and there are going to be little donald trumps showing up all over the place using his techniques for all sorts of reasons. but, you know, i just know he's not a racist, that he -- i know what mar lag go is like -- mar mar-a-lago is like.
that's one thing that's not said enough, but that's what his language does, that's definitely what his language does and his words. >> i was just searching for how it works, you know? why it works in the way it does. because it's profound that there's so many people -- he wouldn't be so powerful if there weren't -- if there weren't so many people following him. >> he doesn't realize, he doesn't study newspapers. he just watches himself on television, and he watches these talking heads, and he figures out what works. try something one night, it work s, you do it the next day. if it doesn't, you don't. he isn't consciously doing this, it just works. it's great. it makes people more excited. makes him get more applause, so let's go for it. >> [inaudible]
>> please come to the mic. >> [inaudible] >> please do use the mic. >> go to the mic. >> okay. >> how was what? >> how is it looked at these days? i know still we have in the media that talks about these issues, how bad is it and how much of people are -- [inaudible] >> well, in some ways it's -- >> [inaudible] >> would you repeat the question? >> she wants to know how, how much things have changed and how much they haven't. well, it's strange in the south. because in some ways the south is resegregated, huh? i mean, in alabama the black politicians made a big mistake. i mean, the whites came to them and said, look, let's just redistrict things, and you're
going to have these safe black districts, and we're going to have our white districts, and they went for it. now they made a bad mistake because you've got these safe black districts, these all-white districts, you've got a republican establishment that controls everything. and it's in the schools in montgomery, it's interesting. there are three target schools, and i've visited two of them. and in these target schools, they're about a third black, a third asian-american because there are a couple of automobile, korean automobile plants near there, so a lot of -- korean-americans in these schools, and a third white. and people go there because they get a good education. i mean, i would have sent my daughter there, okay? they're great schools. i wouldn't send my daughter to the all-black schools that are just holding pens for these kids, okay? so that's the trouble. and the educational system is so bad. alabama state university there, okay, the all-black university, is terrible.
these people graduate from there barely literate. many of them. some get good educations. not fair to say that. but some people don't get much of an education there. but there's no pressure to change that. it's a kind of, it's a new kind of ghetto mentality. and i don't know where we go from there. but at least black people can go wherever they want in the south, they can walk, they can go to -- you know, it's funny, because i had a white person, white southerner that read the manuscript, and i talked about white fountains, drinking fountains. some said colored-only and some said white-only. and he said, what are you talking about? they weren't white-only, they didn't put white-only on the fountains. they didn't have to. it was assumed they were white-only. they had colored-only on some of the fountains. so that apartheid world that was